Monika Jelen’s Top 10
1) Feel the Vibrant Life of Main Market Square
Situated in the heart of the city and measuring 4 hectares, this is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. It is surrounded by elegant townhouses, historical monuments and sights like the Mariacki and St. Wojciech churches, the famous Cloth Hall and The Town Hall tower. Lined with restaurants and cafés, it is always bustling with life, gathering locals, tourists, musicians, artists and street performers. You will also easily spot pigeons and horse-drawn carriages moving around. The Main Market Square is a social meeting point – a place for concerts, parades, festivals and many other happenings. Sitting in one of the cafés or restaurants you can hear famous heynal (Hejnał Mariacki) known as Cracovian Hymn, which is a traditional five–note Polish tune closely tied to the history of the city. It is played four times each hour by a trumpeter from the highest tower of St. Mary’s Church.
2) Enjoy a Walk or a Horse-Carriage Ride on The Royal Route
For centuries, this route has been followed by monarchs returning home after victorious battles, bishops assuming office, envoys from foreign lands and the funeral corteges of great Poles. This historic route leads through the most beautiful sights of the city. It starts at Floriańska Gate and continues through Floriańska street, crosses the Main Market Square and then runs along Grodzka and Kanonicza streets. The greatest treasures of the Royal Capital City can be found along the route: The Barbican, St. Florian’s Gate, the Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Basilica, St. Adalbert’s and St. Peter and Paul’s churches, mansions, palaces and museums (including Jan Matejko Museum, the Pharmaceutical Museum, Underground Museum, 19TH Century Polish Art Gallery in Cloth Hall, Archidiocesan Museum) and Kraków’s oldest restaurant, the famous Wierzynek (from XIV century). Walking the Royal Route when you are visiting Kraków is a must! If you don’t like to walk or you prefer to go the distance some other way, you can take a horse-drawn carriage from the Main Market Square. It’s an enjoyable experience!
3) Kazimierz Jewish Quarter - Where Past Meets Present
Up until the World War II, Kazimierz was the centre of Jewish community life in Kraków for over 500 years. In the past, it was an independent city founded by King Casimir the Great, located on the south of Kraków’s Old Town and separated by a branch of the Vistula River. The biggest population of Jewish people in Europe inhabited the area. Nowadays, like many centuries ago, Kazimierz is once again a meeting place between nations and cultures. Kraków’s inhabitants decided to renovate the quarter, thus saving a part of the national and European heritage. Kazimierz glory began to be recreated dynamically and the quarter started to attract tourists from all over the world. It is packed with historical sites, atmospheric cafés, galleries and art shops with a pinch of bohemian style. The most famous cultural event taking place annually at the end of June is the Jewish Culture Festival. It is Europe’s largest Jewish festival of culture and music and it attracts visitors worldwide. During the festival, the streets of Kazimierz are filled with klezmer music and multilingual talks. People dance and sing together.
4) Time for Chopin and Classical Music
Here in Kraków, you can listen to the music of Polish greatest composer, Fryderyk Chopin, every day, in a cosy salon of Chopin Gallery, or in the oldest Polish restaurant - Wierzynek. Award–winning musicians perform a selection of the master’s most beloved works. Many of Kraków’s churches also play the most famous pieces of classical music, opera and film music.
5) Indulge in Obwarzanek
A culinary journey through Kraków is likely to start with Obwarzanek, the “Cracovian bagel” of more than 600 years. Chewy dough rings sprinkled with different toppings (salt, poppy, sesame, cheese) are sold at characteristic rolling carts on every corner in Kraków. Enjoyed by people of all ages, they also help to feed Kraków’s pigeons. Cracovian bakers produce up to 200,000 pieces of this delight daily in the summer season. If you want to make your own obwarzanek and get to know more about this baked good, you should definitely visit the Obwarzanek Museum in Kraków.
6) Feel Powerful Spiritual Energy
The Wawel Chakra is situated on the Wawel Hill and it is believed to emanate powerful spiritual energy. It is one of seven mysterious energy sources located in different places around the world. These sources are also regarded as the seven main energy centres on Earth. According to believers, the source of the power is situated under St. Gereon’s chapel, which was built in XIth century and it is located between the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral, in the north-west corner of Wawel’s courtyard. Many legends say that the chakra stone is a holy stone which protects the hill as well as the whole city of Kraków.
7) Taking a River Cruise along Vistula River
If you want to see Kraków from another perspective, just take a river cruise on the queen of Polish rivers - the Wisła River. You can admire some of the most iconic landmarks of the city while sliding peacefully along the surface of the river. You can catch boats near the Dragon‘s Cave, right at the foot of the Wawel Hill, and relax yourself looking at Kraków’s attractions stretching along the Vistulan boulevards. Take a cruise towards the pictorial St. Salvator’s Church, where the route changes its direction to take you to the magical Kazimierz quarter. If you are planning to see the suburbs of the city on Saturday or Sunday, you can take a river cruise to the oldest monastery in Poland- Tyniec Abbey.
8) Lajkonik - the Symbol of Kraków
Lajkonik, also known as a Tatar rider or a hobby-horse, is one of the main symbols of the city. Lajkonik’s cavalcade along the streets of Kraków refers to a custom that has been practised for centuries, always on the first Thursday following Corpus Christi. The legend dates back to the events of XIII Century. Today, during the traditional procession starting in Zwierzyniec and leading to the Main Market Square, Lajkonik deals out good luck blows with his magic mace.
9) A Fascinating Attraction Beneath the Main Market Square - Underground Museum
This appealing attraction beneath the Main Market Square consists of an underground route through medieval market stalls and other long-forgotten chambers. Here, the Middle Ages meets 21st century experience, enhanced by audio-visual wizardry and holograms. The Museum is situated on the western side of the Cloth Hall. We recommend buying tickets online since it is quite a busy place throughout the year.
10) Picnic in Ojcowski National Park
The Ojców National Park is located around 20 km away from Kraków. The park is covered with picturesque limestone formations, which sometimes assume fancy shapes, like the monadnock, an isolated rock hill which is
called the Hercules Club. The area is full of gorges, up to 100 meters deep, with a flat bottom, and steep, often vertical sides. It also has many valleys and ravines sculpted by water. The very characteristic rock formations are sandstone arches at the end of the ravines. The most famous one is the Kraków Gate. Within the park, about 400 caves were discovered, including the most famous one, The King Lokietek Cave, which is open for visitors. Another attraction for visitors is the medieval castle, constructed in the 14th century by Polish King Casimir the Great. It is a part of the medieval system of fortifications, consisting of more than ten castles and fortresses, and is called the Trail of the Eagle’s Nests. Because of its convenient placement, Ojców National Park attracts both tourists and locals looking for a quiet place to rest and relax. You will also find Ojców National Park to be a perfect spot to organize a family picnic.